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From bowling to volleyball, the range of teams and recreational opportunities in the community appeals to everyone from novice jock to the most skilled athlete

When it comes to being an athlete, traits many people think of are physical strength, skill, and work ethic. But there are other significant elements involved with sports: teamwork, a sense of community, and the relationships that come from participating in a sport or activity with others. Teammates, in my experience, often become friends. Teams can even bond like a family.

Many individuals—and notably, lots of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people—may think that they are not skilled enough to compete in even local sports leagues, in part because they may have received this kind of message from coaches or other jocks in the past. However, these potential athletes should understand a key point: Anyone can compete and have fun. At the same time, the social benefits will almost definitely overshadow any physical workout. And who can complain about that?

Our community offers many opportunities for sports and recreational activities. There are a number of teams and organized leagues in Houston that are either all GLBT or GLBT-friendly. The majority of them are open to everyone, regardless of skill level. There is always a place for a new member.

Houston not only has numerous teams of all kinds, but it is also home to some of the best GLBT athletes in the world. Every four years, a platoon of local competitors represent at the Gay Games, as they did once again last year, as well as at the 1st World Outgames (see “They Got Game,” July 2006 OutSmart ). Many of them have medaled.

Here is selected information on some of the many prominent sports leagues, teams, and athletic opportunities in Houston.

VolleyballGymnastics/Rollerblading/SkatingBowlingFootballSoftballSoccerBilliardsBikingRodeoRoller DerbyRunningTennis

See also: John Amaechi First NBA Player to Come Out.

Team Houston

Softball
The Montrose Softball League season opens on March 18 at Slo-Pitch City Softball Park.

This is a great place to start when looking for information on GLBT sports organizations. Team Houston promotes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender sports in general and also coordinates the local team for the Gay Games (most recently in Chicago in 2006) and the World Outgames (in Montreal last year). The next Gay Games will be in 2010 in Cologne, Germany, and the next Outgames will be in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.

Keith Wright, Team Houston president and a cyclist, was one of 60 people who traveled to Chicago last year to compete (he and his cycling team won a silver medal). Wright says one of the long-term goals for Team Houston is to host an annual sports festival—one of the resolutions that he and the team presented at the 2005 Conference on Houston’s LGBTI Future, the results from which are incorporated in the document “The Gay Agenda,” edited by activist Phyllis Randolph Frye, one of the Futures Conference conveners, and posted on the Houston GLBT Community Center website, www.houstonglbtcommunity
center.org . (Read more in “The Gay Agenda,” January 2005 OutSmart. )

In Wright’s words, the intention of Team Houston—which meets monthly at the community center—is to build the sports teams that are active and help create even more teams. “The saddest thing in the world,” he says, “would be if 400 people around Houston sat around and said, ‘If only there was a golf group in Houston.’ Golf is just a good example, but it could be any sport. In a city as large as Houston, that has probably happened, and we want to help make those sports opportunities a reality.”

On March 18, Team Houston hosts a 4-7 p.m. social for GLBT sports folk and people just interested in athletics at the club In-N-Out in the Heights. More information: www.gaygamesteamhouston.org.

Volleyball

HoustonForce
The Houston Force was one of the Montrose Softball League teams that competed in the Gay Softball World Series in 2006

The Lone Star Volleyball Association is one of the largest GLBT sports organizations in Houston. With three divisions, its own tournament, and a new location for games, the Downtown YMCA, the group is more active than ever in 2007. The 18th annual tournament—sporting the slogan “The Right to Serve”—will be Easter weekend, April 6-7. This is one of the longest-running GLBT sporting events in the country and features over 450 athletes, spectators, volunteers, officials, and sponsors. Proceeds this year will benefit HATCH, the youth support group. More information: www.lsva.org.

Gymnastics/Rollerblading/Skating

Keith Peters has owned a gym, Creative Development Gymnastics, since 1981. His facility is unique, he says, in that it is one of the only gyms that offers gymnastics lessons to adults.

At Creative Development, Peters welcomes interested gymnasts, GLBT or straight. “I’m proud of the family atmosphere that we have created at the gym,” he says. Last year, Peters also offered his gym as a training facility for Cheer Houston, the cheerleading group affiliated with Team Houston (currently on hiatus).

A rollerblade athlete, Peters is a past medalist in blading events at the Gay Games and Rollerblade America. At one time, he was the president of the Lambda Rollerskating Club, once one of the most active recreational groups in the community. “I am still training and skating and have been asked to restart the club,” Peters says. “I am very busy with my business but I am tempted. The club was fun and an alternative activity for the GLBT community.”

The possible revival of a rollerskating club remained undetermined at press time. Team Houston’s Keith Wright has indicated an interest in helping Peters re-establish a group. More information: www.gaygamesteamhouston.org.

Bowling

AssistHersTeam
Members of the AssistHers team. See story for names.

Another major sporting group in Houston is the local chapter of the International Gay Bowling Organization (IGBO), a worldwide organization that has tournaments nearly every month in various locations across the globe. In Houston, IGBO offers regular league nights on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Tom O’Dell, IGBO president and a Team Houston member, has bowled with IGBO since the formation of the local chapter in 1985 and says participation is a great way to meet people. O’Dell says he can go almost anywhere and know somebody through the numerous tournaments he has competed in over 

the years. “We want everyone to feel welcome, gay or straight,” he says. With the handicap system they have in place, he adds, “everyone is good enough.”

IGBO hosts an annual tournament in Houston over the weekend following Independence Day (July 6-8 this year). Bowlers from all over the world travel to Houston to compete. Proceeds benefit local charities—for 2007, Legacy Community Health Services, Pet Patrol, and Texas Children’s Hospital. More information: www.houstoninvite.com or www.igbo.com.

Football

Hurricanes
The new Houston Hurricanes flag-football team. See story for names.

There is a new game in the town, and it’s gay flag football and the Houston Hurricanes. This team organized last September under the auspices of Team Houston, and by October the Hurricanes were competing in Dallas at the Gay Bowl VI, the annual National Gay Flag Football League tournament. After a little less than a month together, the Houstonians placed 12th out of 16 teams. The team, consisting of 10-12 men who practice every Saturday morning in Memorial Park, is gearing up this year for Gay Bowl VII in New York City and seeks more players to form a league of their own. Photo: (in front, l-r) Gabriel Gonzalez, Paul Lister, and Franklin Hu and (standing, l-r) Russell Garrison, Cory Beckner, and Rob Chapman. In October, the Hurricanes competed for the first time in Gay Bowl VI, the annual flag-football tournament, in Dallas. More information: http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/HoustonHurricanesFFC.

Women with an interest in the pigskin game might check out the Houston Women’s Flag Football League (HWFFL), which just marked 10 years of play. The HWFFL season starts in mid-September and ends in mid-January. There are nine teams in the league, and one GLBT team in particular. The Houston Inferno has 14 members. This is a full contact flag-football league and is highly competitive. Games are played at Slo-Pitch City Softball Park, located just inside Beltway 8 in north Houston. More information: www.hwffl.org.

Softball

The Gay Softball World Series, which this year will be played in Phoenix in October, is the pinnacle for any GLBT softball player. Many female softball jocks prepare for this tournament—organized by the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance—by competing in the Houston Women’s Softball League, which offers multiple recreational and competitive divisions. The Houston Blaze has won its division in the Gay World Series two years in a row and looks to win another title this year. Both organizations are highly competitive but are open to new members. More information: www.hwsl.org.

The Montrose Softball League (MSL), which opens its spring season on March 18, is arguably the largest and most organized of the local GLBT sports groups. With teams that range from recreational to extremely competitive, the league also plays its games at Slo-Pitch City Softball Park. MSL hosts an annual Memorial Day weekend tournament, the Lone Star Classic (May 25-27 this year). The calendar also includes two popular yearly fundraising events, Pranksters in Pumps (March 31) and Jocks in Dresses (June 9). Proceeds from MSL events in 2007 support AssistHers and the Houston GLBT Community Center. More information: www.montrosesoftballleague.com.

Soccer

The Montrose SC began another season of soccer in February. The team, though co-ed, plays for the Houston Women’s Soccer League. This year-round league offers multiple divisions for men’s, women’s, and co-ed teams. Montrose SC is comprised of members of all backgrounds, some straight and some gay. More information: www.hwsa.org.

There are many additional active sports organizations in Houston. Here are a few more:

Independent Billiard League of Houston
www.iblhouston.com

Different Spokes Houston (cycling)
groups.yahoo.com/group/DS-Houston

Texas Gay Rodeo Association
www.texasgayrodeo.org

Houston Roller Derby
www.houstonrollerderby.com

FrontRunners Houston
home.swbell.net/larathon/houfr.htm

Lone Star Frontrunners
www.frontrunners.org/clubs/lonestarindex.php

Houston Tennis Club
www.houstontennisclub.org
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PLAY NOW
Here are three upcoming sports events:

1. AssistHers hosts its second annual softball tournament on March 17 in Memorial Park. Proceeds from the tournament support the group, which provides non-medical in-home support to lesbians with debilitating illnesses. In photo: (seated, l-r) Nancy Wintle, Georgette Monaghan, and TC Mayfield and (standing, l-r) Pam Callahan, Debi Sharp, Ellen Novota, Barb Rolston, Terri Riha, and Sol Lara. Details: www.assisthers.org.

2. Lazarus House, the fitness organization that serves people with wasting conditions, presents its first benefit golf tournament on March 31 at Cypresswood Golf Course. The name? “Wham, Bam, Thank You, Ma’am, Scram!” Details: www.thelazarushouse.org.

3. As part of its 35th anniversary celebrations, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church hosts its annual golf tournament on April 21 at Bear Creek Park. Details: www.resurrectionmcc.org.
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See also: A B-Baller Comes Out

Natasha Avey, a basketball standout as a student at Houston Baptist University, profiled Lauren Grant for our February “Gay Watch” cover story, as well as couple Mark Eggleston and Darrin Brindle (“The Marrying Men”) and their participation in Freedom To Marry Week.

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